2. The Doll Master
Whether it be in the East, the West, or during ancient times, magicians who manipulate puppets or dolls are revered with that title. While many people refer to themselves with that alias, only one individual, the manipulator of the 1,000 Evening Host, has been crowned as the Doll Master, Edgar Alzbayne.
His ability in doll making has enthroned him as an unsurpassed existence. He remains prominent regardless of the countless talented individuals that have been born. Furthermore, he’ll release a doll ever few years to showcase his skill. That’s why, even though more than 100 years have passed, his name hasn’t faded with time.
With such thoughts in mind, Suimei follows the girl through the solemn gates. A dim entrance way greets him as he walks quiet steps behind her. A pair of grand staircases overwhelming their surroundings is the first thing he notices. While the outside of the villa looks like an old western styled house, the inside is furnished with new tables, chairs, and cabinets.
Hanging overhead is a faintly lit chandelier. That’s probably why it’s so dark.
Colored glass has magical properties. Yet, that very benefit makes seeing the dolls and figurines decorating the corners and furnishings difficult. I’d like to get a closer look at the works of the renowned Edgar Alzbayne—
The girl stops, turns around to face Suimei, and prompts him to look up.
“What is it?”
“—Suimei-sama, strong illumination would reveal that which is not wished to be seen. Young ladies in particular find the uncouth stares of gentlemen disdainful.”
Suimei voices his confusion. “…Young ladies?” The girl’s words lacked context. A young lady— disregarding whether that applies or not, her identifying herself like that doesn’t make sense. More than that, her words felt like they were spoken in consideration of others.
The girl turns away as Suimei frowns. Before her is a bisque doll.
Suimei says, “I see, young lady… they’re the young ladies?”
“Correct, as such, this level of lighting is sufficient to admire their loveliness.”
—I get it, this resident might view every doll as having life.
Suimei says, “In that case, I won’t stare.”
They resume their slow gait forward once she says, “If you can restrain yourself, I would be relieved.” They climb the stairs within the hall and enter a corridor furnished with a long Persian carpet. The warm flames glowing within the lanterns guide them deeper into the villa.
They stop before a door and the girl bows. Suimei says, “Here?”
“Correct, the master of the villa awaits inside.”
The master, in other words, her father, Edgar Alzbayne.
As Suimei swallows from nervousness, the girl says, “Suimei-sama, there is no need to strain yourself.”
“…If you say so.”
The other party is the Doll Master. Even with those considerate words, Suimei not getting tense is impossible. He simply gives her a anxious grin.
The girl nods and closes her eyes as she turns for the door. “Otou-sama1, I’ve brought our guest from the association.”
A solid voice passes through the door. “Enter.” For some reason, the voice reminds Suimei of a massive fir tree.
The girl opens the door. Seated on a sofa inside is an old man wearing a monocle along with a formal vest. The gray hair is a testament to his age. He has wide shoulders and surrounding him is a powerful aura that’s characteristic to magicians.
Suimei’s impression is that he’s looking at a statue with a sullen expression. This man is the master of the villa, the master of the doll workshop?
Suimei gives his greeting from before the sofa. “I greet you for the first time. I visit as a representative of the association under Nestahaim. My name is Yakagi Suimei.”
“I’m Edgar Alzbayne. You’ve worked hard to come here from so far away.”
“Your concern is more than I deserve.”
Edgar’s expression hardens at Suimei’s comment.
DidMaster Edgar find something wrong with my words?
Edgar then glances towards the girl standing next to him and says, “My daughter is the one who guided you here. Her—”
“My name is Anneliese. I am pleased to make you acquaintance.”
Suimei says, “Ah, please treat me well.” He then looks back to the sofa, but notices a picture framed on the wall. Even though the monochrome photograph depicts various people gathered together, the face in the center is painted over with black. That photograph tells him exactly the kind of person he’s dealing with even though they have yet to speak with each other.
Edgar’s mouth drops a bit as he notices Suimei’s expression upon discovering the photograph. “Come now, everyone always makes such a displeased expression when they see the man in that photograph.”
“In that case, is that also reflected?”
Edgar nods at Suimei’s question. In return, Suimei once more gazes at the picture. Depicted in the photograph is the most notorious man in Europe. Because of him, raising one’s hand is taboo in Germany and its surrounding countries.
To hang the photo of such a person without regret, could they have been acquainted? Suimei questions Edgar with his eyes.
Suimei says, “Mister, what kind of character did that person have?”
“What kind of character…? That question has no clear answer.”
A wrinkle in Suimei’s forehead cresses at the answer. “…..?”
Edgar looks at the photograph. His memories guide his following words, “Vulf2, back then I had a large complex about my roots… He was a man full of self-confidence, always ready to lead those who were lost. I’m not sure how it happened. Perhaps it was the result of the changing times or it was just myself who was changing. That man as well might have been searching for himself. I, just like everyone else at the time, felt the same way that man did.”
Nostalgia laces Edgar’s tone. “…the laborers were fascinated. His speeches grasped the hearts of his fellow countrymen and pulled them in. Then, once he took power, everyone was persecuted. Misery fell everywhere. Even now, 70 years later, the scars of that great war remain.”
“You were friends?”
“All the way till the end?”
“No, his character became clear to me midway though. He was the type of person who’d be unable to resist the allure magic. Therefore, I parted from him.”
Magicians fought behind the scenes of many battles during World War Two. The battles in Germany, Italy, England, Russia, Hong Kong, and Manchuria were the most intense. This man was probably caught up in the middle of that struggle.
“You were acquainted with father?”
Edgar’s lips curve downward. “We had two or three disagreements during his youth.”
Suimei heard that his father was quite mischievous when he was his age. Edgar’s story probably relates to something from then.
Edgar says, “You have my condolences for Kazamitsu’s passing.”
“Thank you very much for the consideration.”
“Hearing such courtesy from that face is a bit uncomfortable.”
“That… you’ll just have to get used to it.”
Edgar gives a fearless smile as he says, “Don’t say that.”
Suimei decides to unleash the doubt he’s been holding since arriving. “Mister, I heard from Leader that you’re an old friend.”
Edgar sighs as he says, “Nestahaim-dono is still saying that….”
The outcome is as Suimei anticipated. Edgar isn’t a friend like [he] said. It’s pretty obvious once he contrasts the Leader’s age with the time period from when Edgar’s alias became renowned worldwide.
Did Nestahaim-dono tell you why you had to come here?”
“I only know that Leader-dono wants me to receive an assistant.”
Edgar nods as if that was to be expected. “Well, I suppose that is what you’d be told.”
The wrinkle on Suimei brow deepens. This issue is a doubt Suimei has been carrying since the start of his journey. Why was I given these instructions? What sort connection do those two have?
Edgar says, “Your expression says, ‘I’m confused.’”
“Somewhat, yes. There are many parts I can’t make sense of.”
“I suppose that would be the case if that Nestahaim-dono’s way of speaking is how I remember it. Long ago, I was older than you, I made my first doll and showed it to Nestahaim-dono. It paled in quality… compared to the children we create now.” He glances towards the ceiling and continues, “Nestahaim-dono… he treated the entire situation with a mild attitude. At the time, I was aiming to create a [living doll]. His words were deeply frustrating.”
“Leader-dono said such a thing….” He denounced the Puppet Master’s work. Just how strict are his standards?
A smile plays on Edgar’s lips as he says, “I believe that was Nestahaim-dono’s rebuke. I had run away from my teacher and went under him. He must have saw that me filled with nothing but arrogance. Back then, I thought I could control everything, even that beyond my reach. I have always remembered his words from back then. He gave me a warning and a direct instruction that I’ll always follow.”
Seems like it’s a pleasant memory.
Edgar says, “We’ve gotten off topic.”
“No, it was an interesting story. However, I never expected that I’d be speaking with a child of this place.”
Anneliese raises the edges of her apron dress to give a refined curtsey. “Yes, I too am an inhabitant of this villa.”
She— No, both her and Edgar are dolls. If that’s the case, then there must also be a magical power source somewhere. Dolls won’t move without someone to move them. Yet, other than Edgar, there isn’t any other magician in this room who could manipulate her.
However, if mystery is incorporated into a doll’s construction, it should be able to generate magical power without a caster. Awe takes residence within Suimei’s eyes as he realizes the truth. A stand alone.
Edgar glances towards a desk as he says, “My wife and children make up most of the dolls dwelling in this villa.” A photograph of a young man and young woman rests on it. While the young man looks like Edgar, the young woman bares a faint resemblance to Anneliese.
Edgar says, “My wife had a body unable to give birth. Since we wanted to leave something behind, this is all we can do.”
“Hence the association sent me?”
“Yes, for one of my daughters.”
Anneliese turns towards the gentleman Suimei at Edgar’s words. She places a hand upon her cheek as though troubled by the thought. She says, “That girl is the most spoiled of us sisters. Could it be because she is the youngest…?”
Edgar says “That girl is still immature compared to everyone else. Would you keep that in mind from now on?”
Suimei says, “Then, is your daughter able to stand on her own as a magician?”
“She can and as your assistant, through your guidance, she will definitely come to stand out from everyone else.”
“But, I’m still-”
“—being humble. Suimei-sama, you’re the extraordinary magician who vanquished the red dragon. There is no one who’d call you green.”
“I didn’t accomplish that on my own…”
Suimei didn’t defeat the dragon alone. Victory was only possible through the sacrifice of many magicians. Even if he were to have his mouth split open, he wouldn’t be able to say that victory was thanks to him. I’m not even at a level where I can call myself a master magician. Even if he has risen in rank, he still lacks the leadership skills and experience necessary for taking on a disciple. This step is too early for him who has only been a magician for ten years.
Regardless, Edgar says, “Suimei, how about taking in this child until you’re ready to accept her as a disciple? Think of it as dry run for that time.”
“…Are you really fine with me?”
“Of course. There is no way Kazamitsu’s son would be a bad choice.”
Suimei scratches his head in order to hide his embarrassment from Edgar’s words. Hearing his father get praised made him self-conscious about being his son.
Edgar says, “Next, let me tell you bit about her. This daughter is different from her sisters.”
Anneliese says, “She was born in a flask.”
Born in a flask. The proper phrase to describe the girl flashes into Suimei’s mind. “She’s a homunculus?”
“It was a theory of my wife’s from when she was alive. Since she wasn’t able, and my skills were lacking, she decided to create a child through alchemy.”
“I see…. But mister, your technique eventually became enough.”
The contents of Edgar’s explanation is more than Suimei can handle. Once the technique of the man known as the Doll Master became enough, How much of his daughter did he manufacture. He can only guess.
Edgar’s firm expression melts as he speaks of his wife. “I may be a doll maker, but my wife gained a suitable level of mastery over alchemy even by today’s standards.”
“Who was it that succeeded her?”
“I believe his name was Nicolas-dono. Although, back then, he was nothing more than a groan.”
Him being able to refer that Phantom Doctor as a groan is terrifying.
Edgar then turns to Anneliese. He releases her from underneath his arm and says, “Well then, Ann.”
“Understood.” Anneliese stops before the door and says. “Suimei-sama, this way, please.”
Suimei gives Edgar a light bow and follows Anneliese out the room.
T/N: I recall Suimei mentioning he had an assistant in the first volume of the light novel. Said assistant is again referred to in the fifth volume. Volume seven also makes a reference to a colleague, who happened to be a doll, who’d get mad at him if he called dolls pitiful. Said volume also mentions a doll princess. One more thing needs to be noted, but I think I’ll keep that piece of information to myself. wink Well, whoever his assistant ends up being, we can probably consider this an early introduction to one of those foreign girls he hangs out with.
- The katakana reads ヴォルフ. Anyway, he’s saying something in Germen. If anyone knows the proper word, let me know so I can fix it.
- The Reichsmark was the currency in Germany from 1924 until June 20, 1948. The Reichsmark was subdivided into 100 Reichspfennig.
- This is a bit of a guess, but from the context that follows, カザミツ, kazamitsu, is probably his father’s name. It’s odd because it’s written in katakana instead of kanji, but it might be an attempt to show a foreigner trying to speak Japanese. This also happens with the other worlders speak Suimei’s name, they speak it in kana. I tried referencing kazamitsu with his name in the main story, but it’s written in kanji there.